It seems increasingly difficult to maintain a balanced diet, participate in regular exercise, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle for people in America. Yet it seems people in other countries have an easier time of it, despite the international culture of importing and exporting different foods, especially through chain franchises. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone is actually eating the same thing. We’re going to look at how American diets compare to the rest of the world to see why they have a harder time losing weight than in other countries. Check out these interesting stories from Reddit users. They share how US diets differ from other countries around the world, and the experiences might shock you!
20. Europeans often play sports as hobbies, and have fewer snacks in their diets.
Although there are some people who may choose to eat healthily, they tend to also snack between meals because their bodies have certain cravings. It can be nice to indulge every now and again, but some people can take this too far. There is also the benefit of living somewhere where everything is close by. Instead of walking to the store or down the street, people in America tend to drive everywhere because of how spaced out everything is. So it’s more than likely a cultural thing.
As [deleted] demonstrates in their post, he is an American living in Europe and has noted a lot of differences: “Generally Europe has far less “snack food.” Generally, the European lifestyle just doesn’t provide the time/space for that. Having a “sport” hobby is very normalized. It’s considered weird if you don’t play or do SOMETHING active. Town layout is [also] different, and a lot more things are walkable/bikeable, and driving can often be silly. This also lends itself to extensive public transport. I also find that, when I drive, I drive to a town and walk to the various in town, rather than drive and park repeatedly.”
19. Unlike Germany, Americans enjoy large portion sizes of every meal.
Traveling abroad should give you an appreciation for different kinds of foods, but there is such a thing as overdoing it. Everything in moderation is key. However, it seems to be a trend that when foreigners come to America, they tend to eat a lot more and even more unhealthy foods that they wouldn’t normally get in their home country. It’s about the power of convenience and not having to go very far just to get a meal. It can be a very big change for foreigners who aren’t used to the American lifestyle when it comes to food.
Afdc92 demonstrates in their post when talking about an exchange student from Germany who came to stay with their neighbors. By the time the student left, he was 30 pounds heavier and was even embarrassed to fly back home, carrying all of this extra weight on his body. He ended up eating a lot of fast food and eating out almost every day of the week. When he was in Germany, he didn’t really watch what he ate. Instead, “his mother prepared all of their meals from healthy, fresh ingredients that she bought at a market every week, and that portion sizes were reasonable, not huge like in the US.”
18. Restaurants like the Olive Garden make diets worse.
Italian food is kind of considered healthy since they use fresh ingredients, have a lot of dark green leafy vegetables in their dishes, and healthy oils in their food that are good for our joints. But Olive Garden exploits this by turning these once-healthy foods into something unhealthy and then making it difficult for people to actually make healthy choices when they sit down at the table. One really bad example is the block of cheese they bring to every table to shred right over your food.
According to Cat_Butt_Face, Olive Garden could do better by exercising portion control. They have a wide range of salads, but all of the carbs they offer on the side counteract any chance of actually eating healthy. Olive Garden gives out “huge portions of, often times unlimited refills, of sodium-laden pasta for so cheap. When I started counting calories, I cut OG out entirely as it’s SO bad for you when you look at the food stats and ingredients, but every time I drive by the one near me, it’s always a full parking lot.”
17. Canada is very similar to America in terms of diets.
Although the majority prides themselves on eating healthy, that can’t be said for all European countries. England, for example, also has a high rate of obesity from the cultural foods that they eat, such as fried fish and chips, for example. It seems that even in the more developed countries, convenience makes it easier for people to eat unhealthy because it’s faster to get than having to cook a homemade meal. It’s also natural since America and England are closer to each other than America and any other European country.
Frostsong, a British person who is now living in Canada, has shared their experiences living on both sides of the pond: “There is a lot of ignorance around healthy food and a large fast-food/pre-prepared/packaged food that is marketed as ‘healthy’ when it is not. Canadians would like to think of themselves as being better about food than Americans, but only slightly. Portion sizes are still large, and junk food is everywhere. I’m also part of my own problem. I love chocolate, Indian takeout, pizza…”
16. Irish people often eat cookies when visiting family.
In some countries, it can be difficult to stay away from unhealthier foods, such as those rich in carbs. Like in Ireland, for example, there isn’t a dish that doesn’t have some form of potatoes in them. The Irish culture has been centered around certain foods and practices that make it difficult for people to break them. For example, there is the idea of “always clearing your plate,” which forces people to overeat instead of eating in moderation.
[deleted] shares their experience living in Ireland, where the weather is bad all the time, so there aren’t many opportunities to walk everywhere. There’s also the tradition of visiting friends or family: “When you visit a friend you have to drink tea and eat cookies. You never go empty-handed to visit people. You always bring something sweet. Meeting in restaurants for food and wine is an indicator [of] having ‘made it. Alcohol for all occasions. Some lifestyle factors seem culturally ingrained.”
15. Slovenians feast on home-cooked dishes instead of frozen meals.
This isn’t to say that the majority of countries with bad weather don’t have the means to eat healthier. It’s mostly about choice and culture. Even the colder countries, which require people to eat heavier foods, don’t do this all year round. When it gets warmer, they eat lighter foods so that their bodies aren’t processing all of those carbs all of the time. There’s also the simple fact that some people are addicted to carbs all year round, which contributes to the problem.
Lilputsy shares their story about their changes in diets throughout the year, and they come from the cold country of Slovenia. Here is that their typical annual diet is like “Heavy home-cooked meals in winter. Meat, potatoes, also rice, pasta, turnips, cabbage. Dandelion salad in spring. More homegrown vegetables in summer, lots of salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, but still meat, maybe not so much potatoes, except for those little new potatoes. Fish like trout or bass every now and then. Most meals are home-cooked. You can’t find many frozen meals here anyway. Except for dumplings. Everyone does the cooking.”
14. Emigrant populations in Britain like small, local supermarkets.
The majority of our eating habits come from our parents and the way they raised us. If they made home-cooked meals instead of resorting to fast food, then their children were more likely to invest time into making their own home-cooked meals as well. Eating habits are established quite early in life, so they become the patterns that we’re using to having. Even then, there are external circumstances that can alter these habits, whether a person chooses to eat healthier or unhealthier foods.
Zack1747 demonstrates in their Reddit post just what those habits can be like and what they’re used to: “Eat out twice a week. Mum cooks home food five times a week. I’d say it’s similar to the emigrant population that lives around me but for actual British food, not really. Most of our shopping is from smaller Pakistani, middle eastern, or Chinese stores. Only stuff that is common in the UK that we get from major supermarkets, such as apples, pears, strawberries, cereals, pasta, milk, and bread. What I normally eat is [food seasoned with] lots of turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, mint, cinnamon, Kashmiri chill powder, cardamom, basil, sumac… yogurt and ghee.”
13. Scottish people consume leftovers on Mondays, and only eat out on special occasions.
It’s not easy to judge diets in a country actually do for a person’s health. Even meals that are cooked at home can still be rife with carbs, lots of meats, and cheese that would lead to anyone gaining weight. But the upside of home-cooked meals is that nothing goes to waste (unless it goes spoiled, of course). Food tends to be leftover for the next day so that there isn’t always the need to make meals every single day of the week.
Parapolikala shares a great example of what Scottish food is like. All of it sounds quite rich, but knowing that all of these meals are made at home means that they know what’s going into their food: “always home-cooked, mostly fairly stodgy northern European foods, lots of really nice soups, meat with most meals. Plain boiled vegetables. No salads – because my dad wouldn’t eat salad. Restaurants only on special occasions. Every Sunday, mum would cook a roast (usually something like rolled pork). On Monday, we’d eat the rest of that cold with salad and boiled potatoes.”
12. Changes in diets usually come from health issues, no matter where you live.
It can be difficult to change one’s eating habits, but a health scare may be what some people need to make that change. Several things can happen when you don’t eat healthily: you can develop diabetes, have a heart attack, or have overall failing health because you’re not eating the right nutrition. After such scares, most people turn their lives around by making healthier choices so that they don’t end up with another health crisis on their hands.
As for Dontstealmypizza, their family changed for the better once they realized that their family was heading down a bad spiral: “Practically all of my mom’s side of the family has diabetes. That’s not to say my dad’s side is perfect either, but diabetes really scared my mom. My parents (particularly my mom) saw her future if she wasn’t careful. Already losing her parents to diabetes, she became a health freak. So much so that she influenced my dad too. Well, my parents both are diabetes-free & raised three kids who are also diabetes-free. She was able to influence her sisters to jump on board too. It all starts with one person.”
11. Create healthy diets, even if your family is against it.
Even with all the differences between cultures and eating habits, people are just born with different metabolisms. What can cause one person to gain weight can cause another person not to. It’s all about genetics than anything else since metabolisms are passed down in a family. So even if someone is trying their hardest to change their habits and lose weight, it might end up being more difficult than they realize.
PYTN shares the story about their family and their struggles to lose weight. It’s not even so much that it’s hard to lose weight, but they also gain scrutiny from their family for it as well: “My entire family falls into the overweight to obese category. I can attest that we don’t have the world’s greatest metabolism, but the entire family also eats terribly. I’ve got about 30 pounds to go to my goal weight, and anytime I’m below 200 pounds, I start getting the “are you sick, you’re too skinny” comments.”
It’s easy to be met with resistance when it comes to changing one’s eating habits. It’s comfortable, and people rarely want to make the changes they need, even if it’s going to end up helping them in the end. Thankfully, there are those who decide to make the change for the better when they end up seeing how much happier and healthier one family member ends up being.
Even with American diets as their staple, OPdopy was able to make the change after they saw how much weight their own brother lost. “My brother told me about this crazy keto diet, and he quit drinking beer. Beer was/is my favorite beverage. I even brewed my own, so I basically told him to pound sand, and I wasn’t giving up beer. Then I saw him after two months of him doing keto. He had lost almost 30-40 lbs! So off I went on my keto journey. Started at 300 and got down to 208. Put some back on, but I lift constantly. Here is the cool thing, all of my immediate family started to lose the weight.”
9. American diets vary from the east coast to the west.
America is such a large country that there is no one diet that everyone eats. Each state has its own mini-culture with different foods that they eat on a regular basis. Some foods are available to some states while others are not. So it can’t really be said all American diets and foods are terrible. It makes more sense to examine each state on their own and to look at what makes some states more obese than others. And as stated earlier, eating habits are usually passed down in generations, too, so that also contributes to what kind of diets people are eating.
Adult_Reasoning is aware of this and details out what makes some areas different from others: “I think it depends on what part of America you’re talking about. I had the good fortune of living on both coasts for extended periods of time and also traveling around the country. I’ve noticed people living in metropolitan cities by the coasts have varied diets, and I would say it quite well and are nutrition/health conscientious. Small town / Midwest America not so much. Greasy/fried foods are more plentiful in these parts of America. Things are made with lots of dairy products. Sometimes you would even be hard-pressed to find a place that services unsweetened iced tea.”
8. Importing foods can give American diets a bad name.
Maybe you have an international section in your local grocery store. It’s a great way to try some foods you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. But these foods aren’t completely representative of what that country’s diet is like. These foods are the ones that are the most shelf-stable and do the best under international travel conditions. Healthier foods like fruits and vegetables would not be able to handle being transported that well. And by the time they get to the store, they would have a limited amount of time before they start to go bad, making the import even more costly.
Raspberrywafer understands this well in their Reddit post: “I would be cautious when judging by imported foods. Generally, those just tend to be more of the cookies and junk variety. The EU section of my local grocery store has lots of those Dutch Waffle Cookies, Digestive biscuits, Cadbury’s, and frozen meatballs. Not exactly healthy stuff. Even if you were getting produce imported from the US, it’s doubtful that it would be heavily marketed as being from the US. So you’ll associate Oreo with America, but not Brussels sprouts, even though we produce both.”
7. Junk food is easier to ship around the world, and has a longer shelf life than other diet meals.
As stated earlier, it’s the food that’s easy to package in boxes and is the most processed that are easiest to import and export from international countries. They don’t require refrigeration or any special treatment for them to get to their destination in one piece. That’s why it can be difficult to judge another country’s diet without traveling there since you’re only able to see the food that is likely the unhealthiest. That’s why doomrabbit says: “Junk foods are made to have a long shelf life. This is an important trait for the long journey imported foods must take.”
Of course, the Internet now makes it much easier for us to discover what another country’s actual diet is like, and there are even plenty of online recipe blogs that can help you to recreate what that country’s cuisine is like. Many ingredients may be difficult to come by, but a venture into your local international grocery store may help you find exactly what you need. Keep reading to discover more differences between diets depending on the country!
6. American food is less healthy than European alternatives.
“I’d say we do have, in general, a fairly bad diet. Especially compared to Europeans. There’s a handful of reasons: Americans are typically in a rush or busy, causing them to eat quickly or conveniently. Usually, that means unhealthy fast food. There’s a culture of “eat and go.” Even when we leisurely eat. It also means fewer home-cooked meals. Availability of fast-food restaurants and unhealthy food. It’s always within reach. Even healthy food isn’t always healthy. It can be difficult and expensive to eat wholesome, healthy food.
The corn industry is absolutely huge here, and they put high fructose syrup in everything. If they could, they’d put it in toothpaste. A lot of our communities just aren’t active. Every kid has a computer, PS4, etc. I rarely see kids playing outside, but then again, that’s anecdotal. There are probably more reasons, but that’s the bulk of it. That all being said, a ton of Americans are focused on eating right and exercising. Probably more than most realize,” explains ToTheRescues.
5. However, American diets are an amalgamation of different cultures from various parts around the world.
Plenty of people from different countries have immigrated to America, such as people from China and Italy. They brought their cuisines with them and have integrated them into American diets without many people taking notice. This has led to a mish-mash of what American cuisine is actually like since it takes from so many other cultures. To pinpoint one dish and that it’s authentically American is a next-to-impossible thing to do.
[deleted] ’s post reflects this exact sentiment, too: “It’s really difficult to pin down a single American diet. We have an abundance of various ethnicities that play into things. “Italian-American” cuisine is really popular, as is “Chinese-American” cuisine, as is Spanish cuisine, as is German cuisine, as is Polish cuisine, and some distinct American foods. Some families eat a lot of Irish-style food like Shepherd’s Pie, others a lot of Sicilian dishes, my family was mostly Indian food on weekdays and then Chinese or Italian food on weekends.”
4. The food you eat in America depends on your income, too.
There’s more than genetics and geographic location that determines what kind of diets you have. The American lifestyle has made it much easier and affordable for people to eat fast food than to buy healthy food at the store. That makes it easy for people above the poverty line to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, while those who are struggling financially are more likely to resort to fast food. That’s why there’s such an obesity epidemic within the lower social class as well.
As Eudaimonics said in their post: “Really depends on your social class. The poorer you are, the more likely you’ll be eating fast food or highly processed food (all those crappy microwavable meals in the frozen food section). The wealthier you are, the more likely you’ll have a diet of fruits, vegetables, and freshly prepared foods (fewer preservatives and sugar). The wealthier you are, the higher the chance that you can afford to join a gym, have a personal trainer, dietician, etc. So the average American probably has mostly home-cooked meals with the occasional fast food trip or frozen microwavable lunch.”
3. Location also determines your meals — and exercise habits.
Living in a city means that you’re more likely to walk to your destination or at least take public transportation than driving. Some geographic locations just make it easier for people to get around with the proximity of everything that they need. Exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, even if you don’t have access to healthy foods, because it gets your body to burn off the extra calories that you’re eating. But not everyone has the access to or the time for exercise, which makes their lifestyle more unhealthy.
Shadow_banned_man shares in their Reddit post that they live somewhere where it’s pretty easy to be a bit healthier: “I think it depends on where you live more than anything else. For instance, in Seattle, I walk to and from work, and on the weekends, I do a lot of hiking. I only occasionally work out (I’ll do cardio but rarely lift). Nutrition-wise, we have a farmer’s market every Sunday where we buy fresh veggies and sometimes fruit (seasonally). I do eat out for lunch some days during the week, but for the most part, I bring in leftovers. Most of the meals we cook are fairly healthy.”
2. American diets are known for soda and fast food.
Soda is an easy beverage to grab; it’s fast, it’s easy, and the sugar content keeps us addicted and coming back for more. It’s prevalent almost everywhere you go, which is a real problem. Soda has unhealthy levels of sugar that make it difficult to be healthy if it’s the only thing you drink. And because it’s very cheap to get half a gallon of soda, people resort to buying it in order to “save money.” What they don’t know is that the money they’re saving will come back to bite them when their health starts to go downhill.
CactusInaHat remarks in their Reddit post that sugar content and the quantities provided at such a cheap cost make up a big part of American diets: “If I had to choose two main true stereotypes, it would be soda (and other sugar drinks) and fast food. While the majority of Americans may not consume either of these as a majority of their diet, there is a sizable percentage, largely poor, of people who consume these on a weekly and even daily basis. I’m personally friends with someone who will outright not drink water. It’s either soda, juice, or Gatorade.” If you must go through the drive-thru at a fast-food place, avoid these unhealthy drinks!
1. In Europe, less temptation of junk food means more motivation to work out, too.
Motivation can come from having the access to being healthy. If people see that there are no other options available to them, then they’re not likely to try and be healthy with their diet. So although there are some European countries that eat just as poorly as the American diet, they have better access to being healthy. There is more accessibility to walking around as well as to cooking meals at home. That’s because they have the options available to them with how small some of the European countries are.
According to boyscanbecute: “It’s just more natural to be more active here in Europe, and they’re just isn’t really as much binging on junk food. People DO eat out, of course, and binge sometimes. My point isn’t that the people are like…. super motivated about their weight or watching it, but just that the lifestyle itself here naturally allows people to be more healthy. Also, what I see is what the European people cook for themselves at home, in university.”
Boiling down a country’s diet to just one thing can be a difficult thing to do, and that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s bad just because people in that country tend to be more obese. There are plenty of factors that come into play as to why people choose certain foods and why they don’t take better care of their bodies. Eating habits and food choices are a tricky thing to pin down without taking other external factors into account as well, so the quintessential “American Diet” isn’t something that’s easy to figure out.